DIGITAL FUTURE COALITION
Washington, D.C. 20004-7679
July 12, 1996
The Vice President
The White House
Dear Mr. Vice President:
On behalf of many of the nation's major high-technology industry groups, library and educational associations, and consumer and privacy advocates we applaud and share your commitment to assuring that the United States continues to lead the world in the development and protection of both new technology and intellectual property. The debate over how best to amend the nation's copyright laws to achieve this goal has only just begun in the current Congress and appears certain to be continued in the next. Premature international action advocated by the United States delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), however, threatens to preempt such domestic debate and to jeopardize the Global Information Infrastructure itself. We write to ask your assistance in averting those unfortunate results.
To date, the Senate has held just one hearing of its own on the "NII Copyright Protection Act" (S. 1284) and has not announced a date for another. Meanwhile, controversy over complex issues raised by the companion bill in the House (H.R. 2441) has compelled the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property to defer its consideration indefinitely. Even if breakthroughs are made on the several difficult issues identified thus far, the resulting legislation will almost certainly differ dramatically from these bills as introduced.
We are deeply concerned that --despite deep divisions over the pending NII copyright legislation within American industry, and between major private and public sector interests --it nevertheless remains the official position of the United States' delegation to WIPO that both a new Protocol to the Berne Convention, and a "new instrument" dealing with rights in sound recordings, should include a package of proposals nearly identical to the bills pending before Congress as part of an international "Digital Agenda." Moreover, America's representatives to WIPO continue to advocate that these treaties should be concluded and signedin December of 1996.
Plans for a December 1996 Diplomatic Conference to amend the Berne Convention need not and should not be abandoned. Rather, we believe that action items for the agenda of any such conference should be limited to matters previously considered by WIPO and around which domestic and international consensus has already formed. Several such issues are ripe for action. These include the protection of computer programs, original databases, national treatment, and copyright enforcement.
It is critical, therefore, that you and the President immediately modify the portfolio of the Administration's delegation to WIPO's December 1996 Diplomatic Conference in Geneva to charge all delegation members to:
- (1) formally propose that, at the December 1996 Diplomatic Conference, WIPO adopt a timetable for future discussion and action on the "Digital Agenda" that will permit its careful consideration by the 104th and 105th Congresses, and that will permit the United States' delegation to take Congressional action into account in subsequent treaty negotiations; and
- (2) affirmatively work to assure in all appropriate WIPO (and related) bodies that no proposals related to the Digital Agenda, whatever their source, are acted upon prior to Congress' full evaluation of these important issues and action on responsive legislation.
We share your commitment, Mr. Vice President, to bringing the benefits of new technologies to all Americans and the world, and look forward to standing with you in support of new treaties which are the product of both domestic and international consensus. Thank you for your consideration.
Alliance for Public Technology
American Association of Law Libraries
American Association of Legal Publishers
American Committee for Interoperable Systems
American Council of Learned Societies
American Historical Association
American Library Association
Art Libraries Society of North America
Association of American Geographers
Association of Research Libraries
Committee of Concerned Intellectual Property Educators
Computer & Communications Industry Association
Conference on College Composition and Communication
Consortium of Social Science Associations
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Project on Technology
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Home Recording Rights Coalition
Medical Library Association
Modern Language Association
National Council of Teachers of English
National Education Association
National Humanities Alliance
National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage
National School Boards Association
National Writers Union
People for the American Way Action Fund
Society of American Archivists
Special Libraries Association
Visual Resources Association